Six stately women resplendent in pearls and neatly pressed blouses sat at midday in the mirrored dining room. Somewhat incongruously, they were tucking into farmer-size portions of roast suckling pig, grease glistening on their lips and chins as they eagerly devoured swatches of bronze skin and hunks of rich meat that ran from pale brown to almost black. Whatever the social status of your party, you’d be crazy to miss hornado ($10) at Hornado Ecuatoriano. As if the half-pound of pork weren’t enough, the plate also features two cheese-stuffed potato pancakes called llapingachos, a heap of hominy, lots of salad, and a tangle of pickled purple onions.
Due to the incredible volume of food, most of the plates go back to the kitchen half finished. You can avoid this by sharing the hornado and ordering an appetizer or two. Humitas ($2 each) are particularly impressive, long masa tamales formed inside corn husks and dotted with fresh kernels, providing three vectors of corny flavor. The only other dish on the menu that could be construed as an appetizer is morocho con pan ($3), a white beverage served in a tall soda-fountain glass. The first sip is unnerving: warm, sweet, thick, and seasoned with a strange collection of whole spices like cinnamon, sassafras, and black peppercorns. It comes accompanied by an unusual roll—whole wheat on the top, white on the bottom, the warring halves mediated by a thin slice of white cheese.
Other platters are of mixed virtue. The guatita (tripe in peanut sauce) is bland and disappointing, and while the goat stew ($8) is dense and flavorful, it’s a little drier than you might like. The pig’s only rival is corvina, South America’s favorite fish, here fried in a big slab and dumped on a bed of rice. On the other hand, why bother with anything but the pork?
The most ambitious of the city’s Salvadoran restaurants, LA CABANA SALVADOREÑA (4384 Broadway, 928-7872) sports a deep dining room decorated with kitschy rugs, including one of a bare-breasted woman washing clothes in a river, and a menu that stretches to include Mexican and Dominican dishes. The national passion of yuca con chicharrón ($5) is perfectly executed: fried pork nuggets with manioc french fries. Homemade pupusas are available in both corn and the less common rice, stuffed with combos of cheese, beans, pork, and loroco flowers. Only a crab soup whose thin broth lacks flavor proves a disappointment.
Three-year-old MISS WILLIAMSBURG DINER (206 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-963-0802), one of three revamped diners in the area, seems like an old-timer in a scene that places a premium on brand-new. The fare is Italian, and you can’t beat the thick pork chop, done to the faintest pink, or the perfectly sautéed mackerel fillets only slightly diminished by the olive sauce served on the side. As we sat in the graveled side yard on a warm summer evening, we also particularly enjoyed a salad of octopus, potatoes, and green beans, and a trio of charred squid skewers accompanied by a well-dressed mound of greens.
The larb is the best I’ve ever tasted: served warm, this ground-pork salad is sharply seasoned with lime, mint, green onions, and a touch of fish sauce, and reclines on a bed of onions and greenery. Other salads and stir fries at MY THAI (83-47 Dongan Avenue, Queens, 718-476-6743) display the same potent and well-balanced spicing, including pad prik moo grob, a toss of crispy pork fragments with lots of herbs and green chiles. When you ask for spicy, be sure your food will arrive scaldingly hot. My Thai is successor to Kway Tiow, another excellent Siamese restaurant on the same spot.